Article

Michel Foucault

Gavin Kendall

in Sociology

ISBN: 9780199756384
Published online July 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0021
Michel Foucault

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Paul-Michel Foucault was born in Poitiers, France, on 15 October 1926 and died in Paris on 25 June 1984. He was a French philosopher and historian—in his own words, a historian of systems of thought—but his work has had an enormous impact across the humanities and social sciences. His family background was in medicine: His father was a surgeon, and his mother, whose own father was also a doctor, helped run her husband’s practice. The Foucault family led a comfortable, middle-class existence, and there was an expectation that Michel (as he preferred to be known) would continue the family business, training in medicine and eventually taking over his father’s practice; this expectation would never be met, however, as Foucault had other interests. In 1946, he enrolled at the École Normale Supérieure. He passed the agrégation in 1951 and by 1952 was teaching psychology at the University of Lille. His first significant publications—Maladie Mentale et Personnalité and his introduction to Binswanger’s Dream and Existence—were published in 1954. In the next few years, Foucault held posts in Uppsala, Warsaw, and Hamburg before settling in 1960 at the University of Clermont-Ferrand. In 1961 he obtained his doctorate, and his major thesis, “Madness and Civilization,” was published. In 1963 he published The Birth of the Clinic and Raymond Roussel. In 1966, on the publication of the best-selling The Order of Things, Foucault was widely acclaimed as one of the leading figures in French intellectual life. In 1969, he moved to the University of Paris VIII at Vincennes and published The Archaeology of Knowledge. In 1970, he was appointed to a post (Professor of the History of Systems of Thought) at the Collège de France, a prestigious research institution, and he held this position until his death in 1984. The post entailed twenty-six hours of teaching each year, with about half of this commitment being taken up with lectures outlining current research. In 1973, he published I, Pierre Rivière . . . , and in 1975, Discipline and Punish. His final three published books were part of the History of Sexuality project: In 1976, he published the first volume; in 1984, knowing he was dying, he rushed to finish Volumes 2 and 3 (The Use of Pleasure and The Care of the Self).

Article.  8223 words. 

Subjects: Sociology ; Comparative and Historical Sociology ; Economic Sociology ; Gender and Sexuality ; Health, Illness, and Medicine ; Population and Demography ; Race and Ethnicity ; Social Movements and Social Change ; Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility ; Social Theory

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